One of the great things about Scotland is that there are a whole bunch of places scattered about which are barely dots on the map, which have nothing that the tour books would deem noteworthy, but that draw you in and are totally worth the 6-hour train ride to get there.
Mallaig is one of those places.
Mallaig (pronounced mah-leg) is actually the terminus of the West Highland rail line, which is probably one of the most famous railways in the world. Whether or not you’ve heard that name specifically, you’ve definitely seen images of it. The most famous stretch of the West Highland railway is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which was used in the filming of Harry Potter for the scenes with the Hogwarts Express. While many people ride that particular line just for the Harry Potter experience, it’s worth it to stay on until the end of the line.
Like many Highland towns, Mallaig is very small and offers very little by the way of tourist attractions. Nevertheless, tourism is one of their biggest industries, as is evidenced by the multiple hotels, guest houses, restaurants, and knickknack shops. That might sound counterintuitive, but there are two good reasons for it.
The first is that Mallaig is within spitting distance of the Isles of Skye, Rum, and Eigg (if those names sound familiar to you, it’s probably because of the Skye Boat Song, used as the theme for Outlander). Several ferry services run between Mallaig and the islands, which are famous for their natural beauty. All this means that Mallaig is a jumping-off point for backpackers going out to the islands for hiking and scrambling.
The second is that Mallaig is within spitting distances of the Isles of Skye, Rum, and Eigg. Just look at that view.
If that view doesn’t make you want to pack up and move to Scotland, nothing will.